Unbroken Resolve

Ukraine’s Struggle Against Injustice and Crimes Against Humanity

Words By Carmen Macri


On Feb. 24, 2022, Ukraine was invaded by Russia, and more than a year later, the conflict persists. The battle has led to widespread suffering, displacement, and loss of life. The global community has responded with empathy and support for Ukraine. People from all over the world have come together to stand side by side with Ukraine as they bravely endure the atrocities of war and crimes against humanity. Among those who have shown unwavering support for the Ukrainian people locally is a dedicated board member of Heal-Corp, a nonprofit organization that focuses on providing crucial emergency and humanitarian aid to communities affected by conflict, war or disaster. Despite the risks involved, he has repeatedly put his life on the line to stand in solidarity with Ukraine.

Elvis Rey, a war veteran himself, has traveled to Ukraine three times since the outbreak of war. With a heart for serving those in need, he has been providing much-needed relief to the brave soldiers on the front lines and the vulnerable families suffering at home. With a dedicated team behind him, Rey comes prepared with essential supplies such as Meals Ready to Eat (MREs), generators and medical provisions, ensuring that those affected by the war can still receive the critical aid they desperately need. 

“Back in 2022, when I first heard about the invasion of Ukraine, I was deeply concerned about the people and the personnel that were involved because of the crimes against humanity that were about to take place,” Rey explained. “The Russian government wasn’t going to go down without a fight.”

Upon learning about the conflict, Rey wasted no time. With over 15 years of experience as a security specialist instructor in anti-terrorism and force protection with the U.S. Navy, he was no stranger to war, though, the devastation of Ukraine still hit hard. Without hesitation, Rey and his team boarded a flight and headed straight toward the war zone. As they arrived at the scene, they knew that the road to rebuilding and recovery would be a long and arduous journey.

“There was way more that we needed to do,” Rey explained, “to help source and outfit our personnel to not only take care of these people physically but also mentally because of all the trauma that they have endured and that they’re gonna continue to endure for probably the next decades to come, unfortunately.”

Despite his extensive military experience, this particular mission struck him in a far more personal way, leaving an indelible mark on his heart and mind. In addition to leaving his loving wife at home, he also had to say goodbye to his 6-week-old daughter and two-year-old son.

“I’d never experienced this before. This was the first time that I was a father going into this kind of environment,” Rey expressed. “Before it didn’t quite affect me like it did … Just seeing the hardship that the families and the women and, most of all, the children went through. There are people that have been without power since this war started…I had to take a step back and, and really gather my thoughts and understand, you know, why I was there.”
Witnessing the plight of women and children in distress hit him on a deeply personal level this time. It also brought home the gravity of the situation and intensified his sense of responsibility to make a difference.

In addition to Heal-Corp, numerous other organizations, as well as local residents and communities, have extended their support to Ukrainian refugees. Many families selflessly opened their doors to provide shelter, while communities rallied together to offer aid in the form of meals, money or generators. Rey voiced that there is a huge community of Ukrainian refugees here in Jacksonville. Even though the fight is overseas, local people are doing what they can in support. 

Something important to note is how the narrative has begun shifting since the beginning of the war. When Russia initially invaded Ukraine, the entire world was up in arms in support of Ukraine. At first, contributing funds or equipment towards the cause was not a major concern. But as the war has dragged on and media coverage began to shift (with social media beginning to take jurisdiction over people’s perspective), some people have a completely different outlook on America’s role in the foreign conflict. 

“It continues to change narratives. In the beginning of the war when everybody was exposed to the genocide and the crimes against humanity, everybody was pro-helping Ukrainians,” Rey explained. “Now because of the billions of dollars that [the U.S. has] funded this war, it’s turned to a point where it’s become very political. Especially with the way our economy is going.”

Rey acknowledges that it may be challenging for those who have not experienced a proxy war firsthand to grasp the significance of our role in the conflict. While the primary focus is on providing aid to Ukraine, Rey emphasizes that it is also about combating communism or what he refers to as “the communistic world of Russia.” Despite the significant financial support being sent to Ukraine from the United States, Rey stresses that there is a broader perspective at play.

“That’s why I do what I do, and that’s why we have to do as a country what we are doing right now,” Rey said. “This isn’t about our country and what we’re going through. This is about our world. I think as Americans we owe it to each other to find a medium where we can all get along and come to solutions that are necessary for us to prosper as a country.”

Rey explains how it is imperative for our country to find solutions to thrive and become a global example. Whether it involves extending aid to countries in need or fostering meaningful relationships with other nations to establish a common ground to promote peace and maintain the stability of our nation. The last thing we want for America is to be forced into another war. 

To learn more about the situation in Ukraine and what you can do to help, visit healcorp.org.

To watch the full interview with El Rey, click here.


About Carmen Macri

Juggling school and work full-time, Carmen Macri has always managed to find time for the things she loves, like writing. Carmen is a student intern at Folio. Here she tackles much more than writing; she is our on-street reporter for the online segment “Folio’s Freaky Friday” as well as shooting photos for her own stories.